Healing Plants, Medicine Making

Summertime Folk Tincture of St. John’s Wort

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Here is a post we did for Free People! We are quite excited about the collaboration and we thought we would share the post with you all here. Love!

This small shrub with tiny yellow blooms invokes a child-like fascination within me. When the fresh flowers are squeezed they produce a bright red medicine that drips between your fingertips. The juice feels like the blood of the plant, its life force. This magical plant goes by the name of St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum).

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 St. John’s Wort is a great plant for beginning herbalists and medicine makers because it grows wild, is easily accessible and can be used internally as well as externally. I was first called to work with St. John’s Wort because of its affinity to reduce stress, anxiety and mild depression when used consistently overtime. St. John’s Wort has a reputation of being a “Trauma Herb,” healing traumas of the skin and soul. Its blood red anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory medicine is wonderful for treating bruises, burns, sprains, reducing pain and infections.

***Because herbs work on deeper levels, when using for anxiety, stress, and mild depression, use 2-3 times daily, over a three week period or longer. You can start with one dropper full, and up the dose to two if you feel your body needs more.

A great way to preserve St.John’s Wort’s medicine is by creating a tincture. Our ancestors, the folk healers, would gather plants through the seasons and preserve them to use when necessary. Brandy is often used when making folk tinctures because it draws out the water-soluble constituents and alcohol extracted constituents (like resins and volatile oils). Tinctures also can be carried around in a small bottle, which makes herbal healing easy and convenient. It’s also a great way to invite plant ceremony into our everyday lives.

The folk method of herbal medicine making is not as precise as the standard method (the method that’s used in tinctures at health stores) but it comes from a long tradition and can be just as effective. I will be sharing this simple method of making medicine with you.

FIRST, gather your herbs and materials.

Brandy or vodka St. Johns Wort (top three inches of the bloom) Knife and cutting board Mason jar Tincture bottles (optional) Muslin Labels

The best place to gather herbs would be from your own garden. If this is not possible, be sure to find a trustworthy local herb shop or a company like Mountain Rose Herbs or Pacific Botanicals who sell organic and ethically cultivated and wild crafted medicinal herbs. It is best to tincture St. John’s Wort fresh. St Johns Wort can be found in spring or early summer growing abundantly in the wild across North America. Be sure to consult your local herbalist and bring a bioregional plant I.D. book when identifying wild plants for the first time.

*** If the herbs are bring harvested from the wild, please be mindful of plants at risk, whether or not the plant has been sprayed or is in a polluted area, and give an offering to the plant. It is a symbol of respect and tradition to sing to the plants, offer tobacco, and to ask the plant if it is okay to harvest its precious medicine. Also, keep in mind that there are poisonous lookalikes to medicinal plants.

THEN, chop and macerate.

Chop up the flowers of St. John’s Wort as small as possible. The more surface area that is exposed during the maceration process, the stronger the medicine will be! Then you will be ready to macerate, which means, letting the plant sit in alcohol for one month. This process pulls out all the healing constituents that make tinctures therapeutic!

For your menstrum (or solvent) you will need to use some sort of alcohol. If you prefer not to use alcohol, some herbalists like to use a glycerite (which is sweeter) or apple cider vinegar to extract the constituents. Traditionally brandy or some form of alcohol like vodka was used in folk tinctures.

Fill a jar all the way to the top with your herbs. Cover the plant material with your brandy. Let the herbs macerate for one full lunar cycle. Starting medicines on the full moon can be a magical practice that keeps the medicine potent and with the cycles of nature. Label your jar with the ingredients and date, and store in indirect light. Shake the jar daily with good intentions.

***Remember that you are powerful and the energy that you put forth and the intentions that you set will come through in the medicine.

FINALLY, strain and enjoy!

After a month has passed, strain out your herb with the muslin cloth. Squeeze out any remaining liquid that might be in the herb. Compost the finished herb, which is also known as the marc. Pour the tincture back into the jar or into a dosage bottle with a label including what it is, whether the herb was fresh or dried, and what menstrum you used. You have now made your very first folk tincture!

Now you can make medicine from all the beautiful plants that grow around you. You will begin to discover that most of what you need is close by. The St. John’s Wort along the old fire trails, the kudzu on the pine trees, the wild oats dancing in the pasture, and the dandelions in your lawn, all the plants are here waiting for you!

With love in our hearts and medicine in our hands,

Summer Ashley and Sarah Kate of The Great Kosmic Kitchen

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***It is always best to talk to your doctor before taking herbs, especially if you are on any medications. St. John’s Wort can interact with prescription medications and with certain medical conditions.  Some things are commonly seen with SJW like hyper sensitivity to the sun and interference with pharmaceutical anti-depressants.  If you live near an herbalist, a consultation would provide you with the best plants for your body’s constitution. Every being is different, therefore our experience with plants will vary too.This post is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure. Only to inspire! 

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